The Hospital of San Miguel: Poor Economics in Action

13472200_10209566045966409_814941870_nBy Monty Law

On the second week of staying in Guimeras, I had an extremely agonizing experience that would offer me a glimpse into a (thankfully) less visited side of a poor country — I got extremely sick. The first day I was sick, I vomited at least ten times, was horribly dehydrated and had slight fever. Initially I thought it was just a bad case of stomach ache, which would cool off after a few drops of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). When I told my host family, they tried to help with a series of  remedies, including massaging my pressure points on my hands and head to reduce stomach ache and fever respectively, massaging a piece of garlic on my hand (?!), and applying oil onto my stomach. However my condition continued to worsen, and on the subsequent morning I still felt ill.

After consulting Beau, I decided to go to the San Miguel hospital. My host Nanai, along with Jason and Shaun, brought me to the San Miguel hospital. It was infested with flies, the ER was full of patients just lying around on beds, and I could feel myself becoming more energized due to the adrenaline rush from fear of being treated. After a quick diagnosis from the doctor, they decided that I needed an IV drip and an injection. I was extremely worried about the quality of the IV drip and sanitation of the injection, especially after witnessing a nurse eating a piece of cake at her workstation, not exactly the hallmark of quality hygiene. I immediately got up and refused any IV and injections, prompting some teasing from my host mother and the nurses for ‘being afraid of needles’, something I gladly accepted.

I just wanted medication, and we waited outside the pharmacy for them. There was a Caucasian Doctor from Doctors without Borders sitting inside the pharmacy, reading a copy of National Geography at her leisurely pace. I felt strangely assured she was there, knowing that I probably would not die from the medications at the San Miguel hospital.

As I sat there waiting for medication, I realized that I was only able to navigate and understand the hospital due to my limited working of high school biology and basic medical knowledge. Assuming I was born in my village Laktowan, I would not have known the potential dangers of an injection and the absurdity of an IV drip for a non lethal medical case like mine, and would have continued with it. I would not have doubted the use of garlic massages, and could not even have suspected it as a quite frankly smelly placebo. Then again, if I was born in Laktowan, I wouldn’t have gotten stomach ache so easily.


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